A fictionalized portrayal of Pythagoras appears in Book XV of Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which he delivers a speech imploring his followers to adhere to a strictly vegetarian diet. It was through Arthur Golding's 1567 English translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses that Pythagoras was best known to English-speakers throughout the early modern period. John Donne's Progress of the Soul discusses the implications of the doctrines expounded in the speech and Michel de Montaigne quoted the speech no less than three times in his treatise “Of Cruelty” to voice his moral objections against the mistreatment of animals. William Shakespeare references the speech in his play The Merchant of Venice. John Dryden included a translation of the scene with Pythagoras in his 1700 work Fables, Ancient and Modern and John Gay's 1726 fable “Pythagoras and the Countryman” reiterates its major themes, linking carnivorism with tyranny. Lord Chesterfield records that his conversion to vegetarianism had been motivated by reading Pythagoras's speech in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Until the word vegetarianism was coined in the 1840s, vegetarians were referred to in English as “Pythagoreans”. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote an ode entitled “To the Pythagorean Diet” and Leo Tolstoy adopted the Pythagorean diet himself.
“Aquellos que matan animales para comer su carne tienden a masacrarse entre sí”.
“La tierra regala riqueza profusamente y alimento pacífico. Y os brinda alimentos que están libres de muerte y de sangre”.
“Todo lo que el hombre hace a los animales, regresa de nuevo a él. Quien corta con un cuchillo la garganta de un buey y permanece sordo ante los bramidos de temor, quien es capaz de matar impávido a un atemorizado cabrito y se come el pájaro, al que él mismo ha alimentado, ¿cuán lejos está del crimen un hombre así?”.